What is an AV fistula?

An arteriovenous fistula (AVF) is an abnormal passageway between an artery and a vein. AVFs may be congenital or acquired as the result of a trauma. A doctor can recognize an AVF by an abnormal sound heard through a stethoscope called a bruit. The bruit is caused by turbulent blood flow between the artery and the vein. Although it most often occurs in the legs or arms, an AVF can occur anywhere in the body, including the brain.

Normally, blood flows from arteries through capillaries and back to the heart in veins. When an AVF is present, blood flows directly from an artery into a vein, bypassing the capillaries. If the volume of diverted blood flow is large, tissues downstream receive less blood supply. Additionally, heart failure may occur due to the increased volume of blood returned to the heart.

What can I expect during this procedure?

An interventional radiologist first performs an angiography to locate the AV fistula. When located the radiologists performs an embolization of the vessel, thus closing the blood vessel and stopping the blood flowing through the AV Fistula. Once closed the blood flow is redirected through the normal path.

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